Whether you fall into the category of recent music grad accepting your first church music job, part-time music department volunteer or "there's no one else to do the music" scenario, there will be a time that you have to put together a worship band. There are definitely challenges when forming and working with a band, but the payoff is more than worth the investment. In this article, we will share some ideas that we have found to be successful when trying to build a cohesive band.
Most of us working with worship bands realize that the musicians are made up of volunteers. (Thank God for people who are willing to give freely of their time in such a busy and fast paced society.) So one of our first challenges is trying to get everyone on the "same page" musically. It's always a good idea to find out as much as you can about the musical background of each of your musicians. How many year have they been playing? What style are they used to and comfortable with? Are they younger musicians with only a few months experience on their instrument? Knowing everyone's skill level will give you a sense of where to start and what type of songs you will be able to do.
A successful rehearsal is vital to a successful band. This statement cannot be stressed enough.
First, make sure the rehearsal night fits everyone's schedule.
People will have to miss practice from time to time due to real life situations, but make sure that overall they can be available for the time you set. Keep the practice within a reasonable time frame. An hour is the norm and most people can set aside 60 minutes during the week. Running rehearsals too long makes people not want to be involved and so does a leader who is unpleasant and critical. Be Christ-like in rehearsal. Remember God is the reason you are all working toward excellence. Never forget the key word here-volunteers!
Second, get the set list, audio and charts to all of the band before they get there.
It's very hard to learn 3 or 4 new songs in an hour if they have never heard them. It will make your job much easier if they are familiar with the material and have had time to practice individually or at least listened enough to be comfortable trying it.
Third, make sure you as the band leader know what's happening in each song as far as the key, tempo, intro's, breaks, special instrumental parts, and endings.
They can't follow you if you don't know where you're going. It's important that males and females in this role not be timid in leading. Band members will feel unsure if you lack confidence or are unclear in your directions. I have found that doing the easiest song first works well. Tackle the more difficult material in the middle, then end with one that's more familiar. It's good for your band to leave with a sense of accomplishment and feeling like they sounded good instead of the "we sounded horrible" vibe.
Fourth, know what parts of the songs are going to need "extra" attention and work those parts more.
Before you start to practice a song it's good to give a little overview of its form or layout. Sometimes it's just a matter of a simple reminder that makes a song go smoother. Always make sure the intro, breaks, specials vamps and endings are solid since that's when the band is most exposed. If the musicians are having a hard time playing a certain riff or progression up to tempo-slow it down. Repeat it 10 times in a row if necessary then gradually start speeding it up until everyone can handle it. Don't keep starting over from the top. Work the areas that aren't "happening" then try it again.
Fifth, make sure they can all hear you during practice either with a mic run thru the sound system or a talkback mic.
Communication is so important in the rehearsal as well as in the actual service. You will avoid many "train wrecks" musically when you can communicate with all the band members.
Lastly, at the end of rehearsal sincerely thank everyone for donating their time and compliment them on things done well.
Even if the practice wasn't stellar, make them feel like they are valued for what they are trying to accomplish. In the end, as long as God's anointing is on all of you during the service and the congregation was lead into God's presence for a time of sincere worship-count it as a success!
Feel free to comment. What would you add?
Instructor of Music
Texas Bible College